Pregnancy diet questions answered

By: Women's Care Florida Staff

As an expectant mother, eating healthy is one of the most important things you can do for your growing baby. Poor nutrition can have devastating long-term effects on your child, including poor health, diminished cognitive and physical development, and an increased risk of becoming overweight or obese. Understanding pregnancy diet and nutrition is a great start on your road to motherhood.

To help you eat — and feel — better during pregnancy, we’ve put together answers to the more frequently asked dietary questions we hear at Women’s Care Florida.

Do I need to take a prenatal vitamin?

During pregnancy, your daily diet requires an increase in certain nutrients, including protein, folate, calcium, fiber and iron. Prenatal vitamins ensure expectant mothers get enough of these key nutrients; however, they should not replace a healthy diet.

I already eat pretty healthy … isn’t that enough?

Many women don’t realize how significant the increase in key nutrients needs to be during pregnancy, and as a result, don’t get enough. This Mayo Clinic article offers a good overview of the nutrients, how much you need, and what foods are good sources. Here’s a quick look:

  • Folate: (400 to 800 micrograms a day) Helps prevent neural tube defects. Sources include green leafy vegetables, oranges, peanuts and fortified cereals.
  • Calcium: (1,000 milligrams a day) Strong bone and teeth development; helps circulatory, muscular and nervous systems run normally. Found in milk, yogurt, pasteurized cheese, broccoli, spinach, fortified cereals and juices.
  • Protein: (71 grams a day) Helps with growth; especially important in second and third trimesters. Good sources of protein include cottage cheese, poultry, fish, peanut butter and eggs.
  • Iron: (27 milligrams a day) Makes more blood to supply oxygen to baby; carries oxygen to your muscles to help avoid fatigue, weakness, irritability and depression. Lean red meat, poultry, fish, beans and fortified cereals are good sources of iron.

You can also find a list of 13 pregnancy superfoods on our website.

I heard you shouldn’t eat fish during pregnancy. Is that true?

In general, no. While it’s important to avoid fish that are high in mercury like swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish; fatty fish, like salmon, sardines and lake trout, are an excellent source of omega-3s which can help boost your baby’s brain development.

It is very important that you familiarize yourself with foods that should be avoided during pregnancy, as they can contain bacteria, parasites and viruses that are unhealthy to you and your unborn baby. Visit the checklist at foodsafety.gov.

Is it okay to drink an occasional glass of wine?

No. Alcohol consumption of any amount should be avoided during pregnancy. Drinking raises your odds of miscarriage and can cause problems with your child’s development.

How about caffeine? I can’t function without my morning coffee.

Because it’s not completely clear what the effects of caffeine are during pregnancy, we’re going to align with the March of Dimes recommendation and suggest limiting caffeine to 200 milligrams each day. This is approximately the amount in one 12-ounce cup of coffee, making your morning coffee ritual okay… but you may want to consider switching to decaf anyway.

I’m afraid I’ll gain too much weight. Can I diet while pregnant?

No. Dieting of any kind is unwise during pregnancy. Ideally, you should reach a healthy weight before conceiving. Your dietary focus now should be on providing you and your baby with nutritious foods that will promote safe, healthy growth.

“Eating for two” doesn’t mean eating twice as much. Normal weight gain during pregnancy is 25-35 pounds, an amount that varies depending on your pre-pregnancy weight. Find your healthy amount on the USDA’s pregnancy weight gain calculator.

You’re sure to have many more questions about your pregnancy and good nutrition. Be sure to schedule your first prenatal visit as soon as you learn you’re pregnant. If you’re planning a pregnancy, now is the time to schedule a preconception health visit.

For more information and pregnancy support, make an appointment with a physician at Women’s Care Florida. Our experts have helped thousands of women prepare for their deliveries.